For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

1 John 5: 3

John is talking about a relationship that is built upon love. God loves each of us, and He does so in a total, absolute, and infinite manner that is beyond my restricted, conditional, and limited understanding. When God tells us to obey, to keep His commandments, He is not being authoritarian. Rather, the Lord does this out of love, for God’s direction for our lives takes us along a path through our days that is healthy, joyous, and filled with grace and mercy. In a manner that is both hard to grasp on the surface yet becomes very clear as it is engaged in, doing God’s will always leads to freedom and to true empowerment for our souls. Following the Lord’s will releases us from a real and a tangible form of imprisonment that our natural course through life has constructed about our hearts and minds.

God’s commandments bring us closer to Him. They are founded upon His love, and they are grounded in engaging with the world out of that same love. The Lord intends for us to seek Him out in all aspects of life, and He also sends us into the world around us to live out the nature and character of God in the midst of the places where we dwell. Living out our faith can be a challenging thing to do. It is guaranteed to bring contention our way and to cause there to be challenges and trials in our days. In simple terms, there are strong forces in our world that fight hard against this same love, grace, and mercy that God pours out into us and that He desires to see us tender to those around us. Love and control are opposed to each other, and the evil of the world exists to control people.

Therein lies an essential difference in following God verses granting allegiance to the world. God sets us free to accept others without restraint or restriction. He grants us permission to enter into relationships that are based upon grace and to seek to truly know others without needing to judge them. In Christ, we have experienced this same form of unfettered acceptance, and through Christ, we can grant the same openness and fearless engagement to people that are different from us and that have not conformed to this world’s standards for what people should do, say, and believe. The burden of judgement belongs to Christ, and we are no longer required to hold others accountable to a certain standard of performance before we can allow them into our lives. Although we are to live out God’s standards for belief and behavior, we apply them to others with a different intent. For, through Christ, we seek to guide others into acceptance of a way of life that will grant to them this same freedom and joy that we experience through our relationship with the Lord.    

And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

2 John 6

 

Why is it that commanding someone to love seems so unloving? Yet that is what God is saying through the words of the Apostle John, and this is by no means the first time that the Lord has directed His people to love. In Deuteronomy we are so commanded, and Jesus restates that direction for us as He says, “The most important (commandment) is, ’Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” (Mark 12: 29, 30) Although God has been very clear on this point, most people have a really hard time following it. In fact, I know from my own life that there can be a certain perverse drive in us to do just about the opposite of what God and His Word direct us to do.

 

So, when it comes to following God’s commandments, many of us struggle and strain against the boundaries. We test the limits of God’s patience, and look to see just how far we can wander away from the center of our Lord’s stated will. In essence we are acting like a puppy on a leash by trying to determine just how far we can wander away from the path before our master brings us back into line with a sharp tug on the tether that is attached to us. Although God does provide limits and boundaries for us, and He is engaged in protecting us in this world, His desire is for the relationship between us to be different than a power, control and dominance model. Christ is engaging in life with us out of His love for us. He desires that we would follow God’s commandments because of the same motivation.

 

God loves us. He loves all people and all of His creation with a depth and a passion that sets the definition of the concept that is love. When He instructs us to think, to act, and to behave in a certain manner, His motivation is to bring all people into relationship with each other and with Him. Likewise, when the Lord tells us to care for the natural world where we live, He does so in order for us to provide for the needs of people regardless of their natural relationship to us. This care and nurture is a form of expression of love for the Creator of it all just as the presence of such a great wealth of resources is a way that God has demonstrated His loving care and provision for us. So, as God does love us, He desires that we would love Him and engage in that love by following His will in all aspects of life.

 

 

And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

2 John 6

 

Jesus taught often and in depth on what it meant to love others from God’s perspective. This form of love was not for self-gain or gratification. Rather, it was a sacrificial love that was willing and fully able to give up and give away all of self for the sake of others. This love that Jesus brought to the world was even able to love those who hated and rejected its giver, those who we label as enemies. This is the love that God lavished upon all of His handiwork at the beginning of creation, and this is the love that caused the Father to pour out His Son as the absolute sacrifice that was required to heal the separation between God and humanity that sin created.

 

In John’s short letter to the elect lady and her family he is primarily focused on the need to guard the truth of the gospel and to live in its full revelation. Yet, the act of living in truth needs to be surrounded and infused with God’s love. Otherwise we become harsh and defensive so that the sweet aroma of that gospel is hidden under a tight lid of protection and fear. Living in truth and in love is not easy to do. Most of us have encountered situations and people who make it hard to pour out love. In fact, it seems that most followers of Christ have been hurt while attempting to love others. Yet, Christ does not call His people into an easy life. He calls us into a life of humility, obedience, and sacrifice.

 

So, following Christ means that we love in times and places where that is unnatural to us. Obedience to God leads us to seek out people who we would otherwise avoid, and it compels us to turn to God for His grace and understanding so that we can engage in relationship building with people who might otherwise land in the categories of enemy or stranger. As we live in this world, truth establishes the foundation upon which we stand, and love bridges the gap between others and us. God’s love for us is our security. Christ provides us with absolute assurances of the unending and unstoppable nature of that love. So , in the fearlessness of our place as God’s beloved, we can follow Christ’s commandment to live in love with all others and through that love to bring the truth of the gospel to them.

The precepts of the Lord are right,

rejoicing the heart;

the commandment of the Lord is pure,

enlightening the eyes.

Psalm 19: 8

 

It seems that most people want to be right. When this desire is based upon an interest in living well so that we treat others in a just and a caring manner, our rightness is a good thing. However, when the desire to be right is a reflection of a stubborn attitude that can’t admit to being wrong, it can be harmful to our relationships. Some of the time the difference is found in a small turn of direction in our attitudes, a subtle course change for our hearts. These times of off the path wandering can be related directly to a lack of purity in the rules of life that we are observing.

 

God has given people a clear and direct set of directions for living in a manner that is right. His word tells story after story in which right thinking and acting are demonstrated and where the opposite is also on display. The Lord states His directives for us, too, and His commandments are highly visible. He holds them out to us so that anyone who wants to find them can see their truths clearly. God directs us into a life of loving our neighbors and strangers, He calls upon us to be sacrificial in our relationships, and He grounds all of this with a life of focus on praise and worship directed toward God.

 

Yet, even with all of the truth that is stated in God’s word and the clarity with which it is spoken, we can get off course. Life just pushes and pulls at us in a manner that can lead to a loss of orientation. Additionally, there are situations and relationships that are complicated and complex so that it gets hard to sort out what constitutes right attitude and response. There is an answer to this challenge. There exists another aspect in the way that God reveals His truth to people, for Jesus Christ and the indwelling of His Spirit in His followers is the answer to the challenge of living righteously in the revelation of the pure truth of God’s commandment to love the Lord with all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves.